Acupuncture for Insomnia

A person’s autonomic nervous system and hormones need to stay balanced to help him/her fall asleep and maintain it. Several clinical studies have demonstrated how acupuncture treatments can help keep the biological chemicals in balance in the central nervous system that can lead to the restoration of homeostasis.

Acupuncture treats insomnia by dong the following:

  1. Acupuncture can reduce stress hormones to treat insomnia – a person normally produces cotrisol during the daytime to help him/her cope with his/her daytime activities. If he/she is under acute stress, (as in a fight-or-flight situation), his/her body produces more norepinephrine and adrenaline (epinephrine).  These two stress hormones affect the person’s ability to sleep in a huge way.  Researchers in the Pennsylvania State University studied the connection of the activity of the stress system with chronic insomnia. They gauged the amounts of growth hormone, norepinephrine and free cortisol in the urine of the participating subjects and saw that the amounts of free cortisol levels correlated perfectly with total wake time; the levels of norepinephrine correlated with that of the length of stage 1 sleep but negatively correlated with the length of stage 3 and 4 (deep) sleep.  The stress system’s two branches, the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal gland are responsible for the disturbances in sleep in chronic (long-term) insomnia.  A person who is stressed experiences much lighter sleep and may many times wake up during sleep. With acupuncture, the amount of stress hormone in the body is lowered, thereby improving deep sleep time and decreasing wake time.
  2. Acupuncture is able to relieve pain – a children’s hospital in Philadelphia conducted a study involving the effects of chronic pain on the patterns of sleep of adolescents.  The study discovered no difference between the healthy control group and the pain group in the number of total bedtime and sleep time. The group with chronic pain sufferers experienced more signs of daytime sleepiness, later wake times in the morning, more incidents of night walking and substantially longer sleep onset latency. Acupuncture possesses a strong analgesic effect and so can enable people suffering from pain to gain a much better quality of sleep.
  3. Acupuncture helps slow down the effects of aging – aging can lead to the functional weakening of the parasympathetic nervous system and this can result in conditions such as systemic inflammation, fluid retention, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, constipation, and irregular or increased heartbeats.  These problems may also, in turn, lead to a lot of age-related problems like cancer, arteriosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and type-II diabetes. The restoration and maintenance of the function of the parasympathetic system can improve functions of the internal organs and retard the process of aging. Acupuncture usually can improve the function of the parasympathetic nervous system.
  4.  Acupuncture helps better circulation that can, in turn, enhance the person’s quality of sleep – Researchers have studied the connection between insomnia and circulation to the brain. They found that poor blood flow to the brain can result in spontaneous sleep interruptions and low sugar levels. The effects of circulation to the brain on the poor functioning of a number of organs has also been studied and it shows that when a person’s blood pressure in the head was quite low (which should be around 30 mmHg bilaterally (on both sides)), many of the subjects developed sleep disturbances, often insomnia but with occasions of excessive sleepiness, and concentration difficulties. Even with higher arm or normal blood pressure, a person can still keep a low blood pressure in his/her head.  Electroacupuncture treating acupuncture points GB20 (below the occipital bone between the sternocleidomastoid attachments and trapezius) have shown to resolve insomnia by increasing circulation to the brain.
  5. Acupuncture helps the body increase its melatonin production – the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience published a study showing an association between acupuncture treatments and melatonin. The researchers of the study stated that there was a sizeable increase in endogenous melatonin secretion in all 18 subjects with severe insomnia who were provided acupuncture therapies two times a week for five weeks.  Data from muscular and electrical states during the whole sleeping time of the subject showed that with acupuncture treatments, the subjects had a reduction in the amount of time they needed to fall asleep. They also had a reduction in moments of fatigue, depression, and anxiety, had a longer total sleep time, had fewer incidents of waking up during sleep and had longer and deeper sleep time. Anxiety, depression, and fatigue were also decreased but for unknown reasons, their alertness during morning was lessened as well.

In ending, by increasing the metabolism and production of chemicals that balance the nervous system and impact sleep, acupuncture can help support a person’s normal sleep duration and pattern.